Pei Hwa’s Students Code with A Purpose
In 2016, Pei Hwa Secondary School saw the need to modify their Applied Learning Programme to develop their students into innovative and compassionate citizens, seeing tech-related skills as essential to enable the students to innovate and contribute to the community.
However, the students initially found digital learning difficult as there were insufficient Lego EV3 devices in school. These devices were expensive, and learning could only take place in school. Students also had to share the devices during learning, making learning inefficient.
The Digital Maker Programme (DMP) by IMDA offered precisely the kind of support that Pei Hwa needed. IMDA provided micro:bit devices for every student involved in the DMP, meaning that students no longer had to share devices. Coding could also now be done using any mobile devices with internet access. Partner trainers and vendors were also made available to train the teachers in using the micro:bit.
Having the focus on technology and offering ample resources, DMP was the perfect match for Pei Hwa. Unsurprisingly, Pei Hwa signed up as one of the early adopter schools for DMP in November 2016, months before the official announcement.
“…we want our students to be innovative and to use technology and coding literacy as tools to help the community.”
Miss Lee Wei Ying, Subject Head of Project Work, shared how digital learning is incorporated into the curriculum, “We marry our school’s Applied Learning Programme involving robotics and programming with our Lifelong Learning Programme, which is about building community youth leaders.”
Currently, the Sec. 1 students focus on the school community, surveying the school to look for areas in which they can help to improve. Students will identify the problems and use micro:bit coding to create solutions. The Sec. 2 students, on the other hand, work with Voluntary Welfare Organisations to help them solve real-life problems using the micro:bit and digital making.
Community service is a key focus as Vice-Principal Mr. Philip Tan shared, “Compassion and contributing to the community have always been part of our school culture.”
“However, as the world changes, we want our students to be innovative and to use technology and coding literacy as tools to help the community,” Mr. Tan added.
“The goal is to introduce lifelong learning and develop compassionate innovators.”
The students have responded positively to the programme and are excited that they get to keep the micro:bits and sensors they were given. They also enjoy the freedom to explore digital making with their peers, with some seeing it as an opportunity to bond with their classmates.
Besides the curriculum for Sec. 1 and 2 students, those with an inclination towards digital making can also join the Robotics Club CCA. “Club members can work on more difficult projects that they are interested in, using other systems such as LEGO EV3 and Arduino, besides the micro:bit,” said Mr. Joel Neo, Subject Head of the Applied Learning Programme.
Students who have similar interest but cannot make the same time commitment as joining a CCA can join a coding interest group instead. Mr. Tan added, “We hope to provide different opportunities to cater to the interests of those who have shown talent in these areas.”
A survey conducted by the school showed that students were highly receptive to the digital making curriculum, even with female students who are normally perceived to be less inclined towards coding. The successful adoption of DMP by Pei Hwa is further reflected by their numerous digital making achievements in the short two years since they started the programme. Here is a quick rundown:
Presenting their project at Maker Faire 2017 to Minister Vivian Balakrishnan
Project showcase at Tech Saturday in 2018, where local celebrity Romeo Tan tried out the shooting game
So far, the DMP has integrated seamlessly with Pei Hwa’s existing community service curriculum, helping to elevate both pursuits. Students working with hospice providers created two well received projects - the Balance and React game and the Panic Button device.
The ‘Balance and React’ game was showcased at EduTech Asia 2017 where participants included educators and industry experts from around the world. The game involves two players performing one of four actions upon prompting by the micro:bit LED display. As the correct inputs are made, the time allotted for the players becomes shorter. The game ends when a player fails to make the correct input in the given time
The Panic Button was showcased on local television show ‘Time Machine’
The Panic Button works via a wrist strap that is wirelessly connected to an alarm. Worn by an elderly person, this wrist strap will detect any trip or fall and trigger an alarm, alerting people to provide assistance.
Most recently, students created an automatic pet feeder to assist volunteers at the Causes For Animals organization in coping with the feeding of the many abandoned animals under their care
For schools that are undecided about DMP, Mr. Neo has some advice, “Don’t be afraid to invest the time on the students even if they don’t produce something meaningful. We see it as a learning experience – how can we motivate them to try again? Most successful entrepreneurs didn’t succeed on their first try.”
“Our students are learning not only about coding, they are learning important life values like resilience and determination”, Mr. Neo emphasized.
To find out more about Pei Hwa, visit their website here